Rebecca Hughes - Teaching English & Other Subjects in Morocco
After graduating from high school, I decided that I wanted to take a gap year, and volunteer in Africa. The question was, where in Africa? Well, Morocco had always interested me, with the European, African, and Middle-Eastern influences, and it helped that I was conversant in French! So I arrived at the Casablanca airport on September 1, ready to stay for 2 months, but not really sure what to expect.
Truth be told, I was really overwhelmed for my first weeks there. It was a complete culture shock for me and while my host family was fantastic and understanding, it was just really different than anything I had ever done before in my life.
But slowly, I adjusted, and I’m really happy that I stayed for two months because by my second month, I felt right at home, because I was surrounded by a group of close friends and I really did love my family.
For my first month, I taught English at a private school. My pupils were mostly teenagers and so with the advanced class, we would have discussions about religion, love, and literature. It was interesting to hear their opinions but at the same time, it was good practice for their English.
My second month, I was an assistant French teacher at a primary school. The children were all adorable and eager to learn, and their French accents were much better than anything I had heard in my high school class. The teacher was a Swiss woman who was fully integrated into Moroccan culture and with her I was able to practice a lot of my French as well.
One of the best parts about living in Morocco was all the traveling that I did. There are so many different things to see in Morocco! Every weekend, there were at least two different groups of volunteers traveling so there was always somewhere to go. I visited a lot of the main cities: Casablanca, Marrakech, Tangier, Chefhcaouen. But I also managed to see some of the more picturesque sights as well.
We traveled ten hours on a night bus to get to the Sahara. We rode our camels out to the camp site, and slept under the stars in the sand dunes. I don’t think I’d ever seen so many shooting stars in my life! Another excursion was hiking Mount Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa. We didn’t make it all the way to the top, because we weren’t exactly prepared for the weather (who knew it could snow in Morocco?). But we made it pretty far and we had a great time, hiking and taking in the fresh mountain air.
The other volunteers were great as well. Since it was a small group, we all got to know each other pretty well. My roommate and I really got along, we always traveled together on the weekends, and sometimes, we would go out to a café in the afternoon and order some freshly squeezed orange juice! I taught with another volunteer as well, and so we commuted together, swapping stories of our host families and our failed attempts at communication (Arabic was hard to learn and my host mother couldn’t speak any French).
My host family was also the best! My host mother, Mama Rabia, always made sure I was doing okay. She was an excellent cook as well, and she would make sure to make our favorite foods. Marianne and I would usually come home Sunday night from traveling, and Mama Rabia would always be waiting for us, waiting to see our photos and the souvenirs we’d gotten. My sisters and brother spoke French and so we could laugh and tell stories. It was so sad to leave! My host mother said I was would be welcome anytime, and my sisters cried the morning I left. It was tough saying goodbye to my roommate as well; we’d bonded so much over everything that had happened in Morocco, but I know I’ll see her again.
It was such a great experience living in Morocco! I learned so much Moroccan culture, society, politics, education, and everything! Not only that, I made some amazing friendships that will last forever! My favorite Arabic word is enshallah – it means ‘God willing.’ Moroccans say it all the time. Enshallah I will return to Morocco again!